Digging into the Esri UC 2012 Q & A

As the week before the Esri User Conference progressed, I was surprised no one had commented on this year’s Q & A document (released Tuesday) and wondered why James Fee went out of his way to turn his post on the topic into satire. Then I spent an hour and skimming this year’s Q & A. Now I know why. 

  • Almost nothing jumped out at me as being new (some of what I think is new may well have simply passed me by in previous months)
  • There seems to be more marketing content for Esri and Esri UC sessions than usual
  • The document is poorly edited (with missing section heads and multiple fonts as James Fee pointed out) and is perhaps too long to be useful
  • The document was made available just a handful of days before the event

All that said, I did take the time to pull out what I thought were noteworthy/interesting (if not new) statements from Esri.


Location Analytics. This term refers to the exploding interest in integrating maps and simple spatial analysis into business analytics and business intelligence. Esri is very active in this field and now supports direct integration technology for Microsoft and IBM BI platforms (SharePoint, Office, and Cognos). Other platforms (SAP, etc.) are integrated using Esri partners or the business intelligence providers themselves (MicroStrategy, Information Builders, SAS and Tibco Spotfire). While this is not traditional GIS, it represents a major way for our users to spread geography across their organizations.

I find it interesting Esri uses the term “simple spatial analysis” here. That’s not the business Esri typically pursues. Location Analytics is a trend Esri is aiming to make more of a trend with its users and new customers, especially in conjunction with its acquisition of Spot On last October.

Big Data

Esri will hold the first Big Data/NoSQL SIG meeting at the 2012 User Conference on Wednesday, July 25th from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in SDCC Room 17A.

That’s interesting since I can’t say I’ve heard Esri and NoSQL in the same breath in recent years. Still unclear on NoSQL? I wrote about it last year.


We will be extending our support for the Mac with a new native application called the ArcGIS Viewer for Mac. We are also working on the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Cocoa, allowing developers to build native apps for Mac OS X.

The best I can tell the ArcGIS Viewer for Mac will be a native app focussed on accessing ArcGIS Online. You’d think it’d be aimed at education, but most schools are moving to iOS and iPads. I find this a curious development.

Linear referencing system (LRS)

While we’ve supported basic linear referencing for many releases dating back to the late 1980s, we have recently upgraded this capability with the release of a new product called Esri Roads and Highways. Esri Roads and Highways extends ArcGIS to provide the advanced linear referencing capabilities required by a modern, enterprise highway information management system. Specifically, Esri Roads and Highways connects the GIS with other enterprise systems where linear referenced information is stored. By allowing users to define advanced LRS networks that are capable of managing event layers from multiple systems that use multiple linear referencing measure types, Esri Roads and Highways acts as an “LRS Bridge” that enables the full power and capabilities of the ArcGIS system for visualization, analysis, and management of highway information across the enterprise. 

This response highlights not only that LRS, what I used to call dynamic segmentation, is being reborn but also Esri's move to more products. The Q & A as a whole has reference to perhaps a dozen add-on products and templates aimed at specific industries and workflows. Esri’s product catalog must be enormous! Moreover, from a user standpoint, it must be harder than ever to collect all the various products needed. Esri add-ons, rather than partners' products, get a lot of ink in this document.


Q: What support is available for MicroStation? 

MicroStation files are read and write accessible in ArcGIS for Desktop. There is also data migration support via ETL tools from SAFE Software within the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension. MicroStation has native support for WMS map services hosted by ArcGIS for Server and users of Bentley Map for MicroStation can access WFS feature services hosted by ArcGIS for Server. There is no equivalent offering of ArcGIS for AutoCAD for the MicroStation platform at this time.

This saddens me only because of the significant work done at one point to bring MicroStation into Esri’s workflows. I’m guessing the demand and/or relationship was simply not there to support further development. 


Q: Does ArcGIS 10.1 for Server include options for high-quality printing from the Web Mapping APIs? 

Yes. This has been the most popular enhancement request for ArcGIS for Server in our ArcGIS Ideas site. We have added a new out-of-the-box Printing Tools geoprocessing service to help you easily incorporate high-quality printing capabilities into your web applications. You will be able to generate maps in pdf, png and many other formats, with this service. Learn more from this video:  ArcGIS 10.1 for Server: PrintingTools Service Tutorial

As much as we try to get away from printing, it always comes back! I’m pleased Esri is taking action on the most popular enhancement request for ArcGIS for Server. I’d like the company to document it’s taken action on other top requested features for other products. 

ArcGIS Online

Q: How can ArcGIS Online help me extend the reach of my GIS? 

While the ArcGIS Online platform is not designed for consumers, it is designed to be used by virtually everyone in an organization who is interested in making maps and accessing GIS-based maps and data. ArcGIS users can easily share their maps and GIS content with all of their colleagues across their organization. It embraces and leverages the user experience patterns that are common in consumer-oriented mapping systems with simple viewers and high performance/content rich services. These apps are easy to deploy and come from a library of application templates for quickly creating web apps that can be used by anyone. That means GIS users can easily publish and make their maps and geospatial content openly available using the same pattern that has made consumer mapping so popular. These capabilities are completely integrated with your existing ArcGIS system.

At the same time, ArcGIS Online is designed for virtually anyone else to easily create maps and share them as web maps that can be integrated and easily discovered.

This response continues to muddle my thinking about what ArcGIS Online is. As I noted in a blog post earlier this summer, the definition of ArcGIS Online is all over the place. These paragraphs being suggesting “ArcGIS Online is not designed for consumers” and conclude by saying it's “designed for virtually anyone else...” Perhaps this is an editing error, but I find these statements confusing.

Community Maps

Q: What is new with the Community Maps Program and what is planned for the near future? 

The Community Maps Program is introducing several improvements this year, based largely on feedback we’ve received from the community. Working with several of our participants, we‘ve enhanced the cartographic design for the World Topographic Map, our flagship community map. Many users asked us to make this map work better as a basemap for operational data. The new design provides a better balance of reference information on the map with a more neutral treatment of feature symbology so that operational and thematic data have more visual prominence. The new design is also intended to work better in contemporary websites and mobile applications.

Participants in Community Maps often tell us they feel like map stewards for their local community.  Esri is introducing a new participation model to make it easier to integrate local data into our worldwide basemaps. We are building a web-based system for participants to submit data to the program and review the data and map prior to publication. Esri will integrate the data into the map, create the map cache for review with the contributor, and finally publish the finished map. The primary goal of this new system is to reduce the level of effort required to participate in the Community Maps Program and enable more users to participate. Esri will take on more of the “heavy lifting” of map authoring and caching so contributors can focus on building high-quality content for their communities. 

This is good to hear (and was hinted at some time ago). Esri needs to make the process easier if it hopes to entice authoritative data creators to share their data and continually update them. This is a "normal" problem related to crowdsourcing.

Esri Maps for Office

[What does “GIS – Opening our World?” Mean?]

5. The integration with Microsoft Office (i.e., Excel and PowerPoint have become clients to ArcGIS for Server and ArcGIS Online) [...]

Q: What is the cost for Esri Maps for Microsoft Office and SharePoint? 

Esri is making this functionality available in August as part of its ArcGIS Online subscription model. Users and user organizations who have a subscription to ArcGIS Online will be able to immediately use all of the functionalities of Esri Maps for Office and Esri Maps for SharePoint as part of their ArcGIS Online subscription.

I fear this will disappoint many people. The promise of Esri Maps for Office seemed to be more about “maps for all” and clearly it’s only for those with subscriptions. I suspect existing tools to map from Excel and for PowerPoint will continue to be widely used by Esri users and non-users for years to come.

Published Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in

Esri Technology

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